| Politics

Campaign Finance Reform

by Michael Bindner

The recent Supreme Court decision striking down restrictions on corporate electoral speech has made campaign finance a hot issue. There is even talk of a constitutional convention call to draft an amendment to counteract it and create a system of public financing. Given the likely composition of just the Virginia delegation to such a convention, I am not sure this is a risk I am willilng to take. What I do want to do is below the fold.

Because each and every directly elected federal officer (counting the members of the Electoral College - which actually elect the POTUS) represent a state or the District of Columbia, I question whether federal campaign finance legislation is appropriate at all. It certainly has not decreased the power of economic interests in relation to the citizens. If anything, we are worse off than we were before Watergate.

If there is a federal law in this area, it should simply empower the states to regulate campaign finance as they see fit. If states also wish to establish a system of public finance, they can do so. If they wish to ban out of state donations, they should be able to do that too. I would probably draw the line against allowing them to regulate political ads, although this may be a state constitutional issue and not a federal one. Trusting the states is dicey, however, as they may not play fairly in this area nor would I want to tempt partisan majorities into testing the waters.

Some states would, undoubtedly, set up a system of public finance. Others might require that campaign committees not accept out of state, corporate or PAC donations or channel them blindly through party committees (which could even distribute them equally to all candidates). Some states will be more progressive than others, but this might be a good thing as innovative states may shame others into change. If other states allow more visible corruption to occur, this may well become an electoral issue - in fact, it is sure to become one if one party too obviously feeds at the corporate trough. This is, perhaps, the best way to ensure good behavior. Nothing we have tried to date has.